About five years ago I dipped a toe into a genre that had me baffled at first YA – first of all what did it mean? – it was explained to this old lady, YA = young adult – I scowled at the term young adult. Even more of a scowl when I discovered the huge age span included. I came around to the concept eventually – muttering under my breath that YA meant teenagers and teenagers were not adults. Well ,not until they are old enough for someone to shove a gun in their hands and send them of to war anyway!
I dabbled – I tentatively began to read a few, I began with the Dystopian ones because, despite being told that was what my books were, it seemed this genre had been taken over by YA writers, and I was certainly not writing for teenagers. I read Dystopian when young, of course I did; Brave New World, the Death of Grass, 1984. were these the YAs of today. No but today’s YA authors certainly do angst ridden worlds well.
I sort of enjoyed them and yes the ‘sort of’ is an old lady not wishing to cave in too quickly from her former stance:)
I began with Thinner Than Thou by Kit Reed progressing to The Last Survivors by Susan Pfeffer then slowly into Hunger Games (everyone telling me I must) As I got to know other Indie authors online I sneaked looks at their offerings. Not many, I confess, as I already have a TBR pile that could stretch around the world and days certainly do shrink when one ages – it’s true you young things:) I found yes I quite like them.
One of my mutters used to be, We were not pandered to like that when we were young –
I have to constantly write memos to self, warning against remarks such as that! Of course we were; the books just weren’t called YA. As I have said, many times before, I don’t own books I possess them which is why I can wander to the shelves and revisit books I read 60 years ago. My ‘YA’ books were different, mine were adventures of a different ilk, but, they were the ones that I used to redefine myself. To place myself in society, very much as ‘YA’ does today.
The books I came to in my teenage years or earlier, because I got there quite early in my reading life, were full of adventure, very little Dystopian. The ones that had been hanging about from my parents childhood were of course written from the perspective of the Empire Builders we considered ourselves to be, over here on this island in the ocean. The ones written for us postwar children were written from the point of view of the ‘winners’. We didn’t need Dystopian we were surrounded by graveyards, bombed out ruins and newsreel pictures of Belsen. Our YA stories appeared to be written to inspire and lead us forth to single handily repair the world.
Our young heroes were either full of the John Bull spirit and if they were orphans, as so many of the children then were, they were inspired orphans, not insecure ones. Ann Franks diary was well read and loved among the young, that was fact, The Silver Sword was fiction based on fact, of a group of children fleeing the Nazis, travelling from Poland to Switzerland, living off their wits and making good. The King of Kilba, displayed two intrepid young men, doomed to spend their lives in a dull office job, after the excitement of the war, who seized the day and set of to find ‘adventure’, which they did, and upheld their countries fighting spirit and values in true hero fashion. Or they were in throes of young love- Lorna Hill at the Saddler Wells ballet school. Where innocent young girls wended their way through the uncertainty of finding the one true soul mate.
Stories for children are written to display their world from their perspective. It is of little use this old lady asking which world was a better showcase of reality. Which world was a better one to have on a bookshelf. Zombies, vampires and werewolves or concentration camps and ruined cities – our dystopia’s were actuality, todays are more general but real nonetheless.
Because these YA books are written for that anxious, fearful time between childhood and the rest of your life. It matters not whether my time 60+ years ago or the teenagers of today. It is a wonderful, terrible time to live through. Our worries back then were, how safe could the powers that be keep us? (they had failed miserably just before) How could we trust the future when clouded by the Cold War? modern technology, could that be trusted?, the atomic bomb was something that could not be forgotten. Then of course how could we reconcile our plain awkward selves to the femme fatales of Hollywood we wished to be. Would we ever be loved, married, happy. The dislocation of family life and security goes on, caused by the war in my youth; if the youth who read YA now live in a unsettled world it is caused by divorce and job insecurity, foreign wars, drugs and violence, and living up to the obscene obsession with personal looks. Pretty much what disturbed us, they want the same things we did back when. . .
It is a time when trust in the adults ruling their world becomes thin, they look around and feel fear. Children of any age are not so concerned with the world events more with the insecurity the world around them offers. The lack of control they have,over their emotions and their lives.The seeming lack of understanding those in charge seem to have.
Young adults, teenagers, whatever they are called inhabit a marshland of uncertainties and they need/desire heroes of their age who can take on the angst and win through, they need/desire gentle sweetness in first relationships and young love.Not so different from my youth 60+ years ago.